TAKE YOUR SEATS for the 12 o'clock service from London Victoria, calling at Clapham Junction, Merstham, Haywards Health and all stations to Brighton. The Southern Belle, the famous Pullman service of the 1920s, is stoking up for a final run.
Hewson Consultants has attempted to capture the trials of life in the engine cab in a full simulation of one of the most elegant trains of all. You must control a 4-6-0 King Arthur Class locomotive, regulating the steam pressure, shovelling coal into the boiler, obeying signals, and even blowing the whistle at the correct times.
The screen display shows the interior of the cab and the features of the track as they pass by. Those include 24 stations, tunnels - including the twin-towered Clayton tunnel - signal boxes, Battersea Power Station, and other landmarks.
Controlling the train is not easy, in spite of the comprehensive booklet including a history of the line. Gradients are included, and to score full points you must make it to Brighton on time, using an economical amount of coal.
There are a number of training modes, where the computer controls many of the functions, and the full run includes weather hazards. There is a high-speed demo as well, but the whole trip is in real-time, so you will not finish in under an hour.
The version we saw was a pre-production copy with many of the control features not fully operative. Hewson promises further landmarks and decoration on the screen, as well as information about hazards and signals. Our rating is therefore provisional and may be updated in a later issue.
Train lovers will certainly enjoy a good, solid simulation, and those who are used to flight simulators may find a day's outing on the sSouthern Belle a refreshing change from airport mayhem.
Publisher: Hewson Consultants